Julie Myerson column

Sunday night: we're getting ready to go out to dinner. "Should I shave?" - Jonathan rubs his chin.

"They expect it."

"I won't then."

I look at him. "I like you better when you shave." He sighs and plugs in his shaver in a beleaguered way. "But don't empty your stubble all over the basin."

Jacob comes in, sniffing his discarded underpants. His tummy and back are covered in livid, picture-book spots. I grab him; he wriggles.

"Jacob's got some funny spots," I call to Jonathan over the noise of the shaver.

"What?"

"Can I get the torch and go and see how the squirrel is?" asks Jacob.

There's a squirrel huddled under bricks in our yard. It fell out of an upstairs window, the third squirrel in a year to get stuck in our chimney.

For more than an hour we waited by the opened fireplace, wafting a jar of peanut butter. But when the animal emerged, it just skittered around, crazed and shrieking, blinded by the sudden noon of the sunlight. I screamed.

"It's going to jump at my throat!"

"Don't be a moron."

Sweating, Jonathan trapped it under a plastic seaside bucket and then slid a piece of cardboard underneath. We manoeuvred the frantic, squawking rodent to the open window. We were aiming for the extension roof just below but we pulled our hands away too quickly and, well ...

"He's just sitting there breathing," Jacob comes back upstairs, panting.

"If it's injured we should kill it," I mutter to Jonathan.

"Be my guest." He knocks his razor against the side of the basin - snowfall of banned stubble. He doesn't rinse the basin.

The dinner's in Maida Vale. The sky's still flushed, the birds still loud, flesh-coloured blossom stacked waxily above our heads. "Oh," I say, "I love that smell."

"What smell? I can't smell anything."

At dinner, a big man in a brown linen suit confides in me that he works for MI5. "What? You actually work in that amazing Lego building at Vauxhall? What's it like inside?"

"Well," he pauses, "It's actually very dark."

"Dark! But you can still work?"

"Just about. But then there's the white noise."

"What?"

"So that no one can bug what anyone's saying - a security measure."

I gasp.

"But if you need to talk to someone you put on special headphones, blot it out."

"Julie," says Jonathan, "You're too gullible."

We argue about the homeless, Dennis Potter's life work, why banks loan money to small businesses, whether a friend's small business will eventually go bust, and whether the River Cafe Cook Book is any good for vegetarians.

Then we drive back through the centre of London, through a landscape of people eating and singing and throwing up and lolling in each other's arms and bedding down in corrugated cardboard beneath cashpoint machines.

A car's windscreen lies in icy blue crumbs on the pavement. An ambulance wails past, slick car ads are illuminated on billboards, litter floats in hopeless circles, caught in a wind trap.

"I knew he was kidding," I tell Jonathan, "About MI5. I was just playing along."

"Like hell you were."

I loll into sleep thinking of the murky green darkness of the Thames caressing the front of the MI5 building.

Next day, Emily-down-the-road finds the squirrel in her daughter's treehouse and takes it to the vet's. "The vet's?"

Jonathan shrugs. "I told her as far as I'm concerned it's a rat with a tail and if it even sniffs our chimney again, it's history."

"You're a hard man. There are people who really love animals and Emily's one of them. I've seen her almost in tears about the cats."

Exhausted and hungover, I take all the children and queue for two hours at the overheated health centre to see a locum about Jacob's spots. I might as well not have bothered.

"Rash," his command of English is similar to my grasp of the security services. He leans back, unshaven, spots of food solidified on his clothes.

"I just want to know if it's OK to send him to school. He's had chickenpox and German measles already, you see."

The man yawns, "You - surely - no consider send child to school with rash?"

I stiffen, "It depends - with an allergic rash, probably, yes."

The brown carpet in the room smells of skin and pee and Raphael and Chloe are rolling and fighting on it, near breaking point after two hours in a hot waiting room. "Stop it now!" my voice soars unattractively as I try to prise them apart. "I have to talk to the doctor!"

The man throws up his hands, "He stay off school, that is all!"

"But he's perfectly well -"

"I give you some cream, for dry skin."

"You don't keep a child off school with dry skin -"

"Raphael," says Chloe with a squirm in her voice, "Pull down my knickers." (He does.) "Stick your finger up my bum." (He does, sniffs it.)

"Right, OK," I yank them by their collars, "that's it, we're going, thank you, doctor, for your time."

On the pavement, I line them up, shout at them, then shoo them into the car. In front of us there's a skip containing a stained and rain-sodden mattress and a dead Christmas tree.

"I feel I want to bite someone," observes Jacob as we sit in devastated silence.

"I feel I want to bite the doctor," I admit.

By the time we've all stopped laughing, it's begun to rain.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement